Label: Eternal Death
Were there any justice, then One Master would be recognised as one of modern black metal’s strongest bands. Now in to their fifteenth year of existence, the US band have, in the form of Reclusive Blasphemy, released one of 2015’s best records; and now follow it up with Lycanthropic Burrowing. It is another fine offering of misanthropic, forceful black metal that treads no path but its own, filled with violence and an aura of confidence that absolutely cannot be faked. This is the sound of a band at the height of their powers.
Much of Lycanthropic Burrowing consists of fast, violent black metal, with a sound rooted in second-wave based conventions and yet also removed from them. It is rare to hear a black metal band who do not immediately bring others to mind, yet that is what One Master succeed in doing. This is a record that sounds at once familiar and fresh, as respectful of convention as it is unorthodox, and the spell it casts is hard to resist. Whilst riffs may veer in to dizzying, unsettling territories, the forceful drumming and commanding vocals ensure that Lycanthropic Burrowing always feels grounded, never losing contact with the sense of physicality that is one of the album’s best points.
Special praise must be given to third track ‘The Black Bat’. Launching immediately in to head-spinning guitar movements, held together by pounding drums, and impassioned vocals by Valder, the occult atmosphere of the song is one of utmost darkness. When the song shifts just before the 3 minute mark, with the drums laying down a hyper-speed military style march on the snare, the effect is incredible; as is the impact when the song moves back in to its earlier movement. It is atmospheric without any of the lightness of sparsity that tired description often implies; instead, this is the sound of absolute blackness, of midnight rituals in forgotten places, of offerings to things best left unknown, of the forbidden and impossible made real.
As on Reclusive Blasphemy, the closing title track offers a notable change of pace. Here, ‘Lycanthropic Burrowing’ opens with a slow, orthodox movement that would not be out of place on some of the better records coming out of Eastern Europe; before moving in to more unsettling, discordant territories. It soon launches in to more up-tempo punishment though, with the guitars moving like a buzzing maelstrom of black metal blasphemy. The song taps in to a sense of horror that seems to seep out of the speakers, infecting the listener’s very core in the most terrible, yet addictive of ways.
As dark and unsettling as the album can be, Lycanthropic Burrowing is a distinctly rewarding listen (enjoyable is not quite the right word for something this dark). There is more than enough here to keep listeners coming back for more, and if this album is not recognised as one of 2017’s best, it would be a genuine shame.
Lycanthropic Burrowing is set for release on July 14 2017, on cassette and vinyl. It can be pre-ordered on vinyl and digital via Bandcamp.